On Wednesday, the federal income tax filing deadline came and went. If you were one of the millions of people who waited to the last minute to file, you are certainly not alone. There are scores of others who have not filed yet, either because they are still assembling information to complete their returns, or have had an extension approved by the IRS.
Either way, it is not uncommon for a return to be audited when information entered into a return does not reflect reality. Sometimes when this happens, it could result in spouses being charged with tax evasion or filing a false tax return. If this has happened to you, and you had nothing to do with completing and filing the return, you could claim the “innocent spouse” defense.
This defense is couched in a request for equitable relief. It essentially means that an innocent spouse did not play an active part in completing the return, or entering false information in it. There are a number of scenarios where an unwitting spouse can assert this defense. For example, spouses of sole proprietors or closely held corporations that did their own accounting commonly have no first hand or specialized knowledge of the numbers necessary to complete a tax return.
Further, abused spouses who signed their names to false or misleading returns under duress could also claim this defense. Spouses who are abused commonly do not have the ability to question or challenge such returns and may not understand the legal implications of signing a false return.
If you have additional questions about equitable relief, an experienced attorney can help.